Mennonite Poetry Home | Robert Martens



familiar melody

The familiar melody of ribbits, croaks and chirps is disappearing as a mysterious killer fungus wipes out frog populations around the globe, a phenomenon likened to the extinction of dinosaurs. (Associated Press, Feb. 14, 2007)

the creatures of twilight are dying.
swampland of lonely spirits, legends
decaying in mudbanks, our voices
tepid, weak, beyond the edges of empire.
ancestral ghosts, their promised land
of wandering, why have you
abandoned them? half-light of fern,
dragonfly, burbling pond, naked
child adrift on sedge.

you confess nothing. in afternoon's merciless
glare, synapses of talk erupt
like supernovas. this hour leaps continents.
electrified oceans, tongues blaze blue,
you concede nothing. night collapses
like a bombed tower. make a decision
now or it will win. punctured
darkness, traffic wheeling underground,
subway plunge into digital shock. turn
on the power. write history as you
go. either/or, half-light's for banishing,
for beggars, injectors, cowards.

though you've voted a clear
mandate. she will call. though you
confess nothing. you're born to
war, light/dark, the law of
video flare, battle is your dna.
your wishes of twilight are failing.

and then your vision blurs.
are you going blind? the
deep drone of sundown,
a breeze lifting damp
earth, your flesh soft
as an infant's. empire
rotting in tangles of mangrove.
you hear a familiar melody,
your own voice, emerging
from algae and lily pad,
and marsh air so thick and
redolent, you float, naked,
on ripples of light. the creatures
of twilight are singing.
something's rustling in the
reeds. you say
nothing, she confesses for you.
swallows on the hunt,
sway of rushes,
cloud of moth and
mosquito. an ancient
scaly beast, prowling,
in this twilight
everything's extinct.
including you.

© Robert Martens




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